David C. Matton, a resident of Windsor, Ontario, paid more than $2,200 in fines after being charged by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Environment Canada for violations of regulations protecting turtles. Matton purchased wood turtles in West Virginia and transported them in foreign commerce in violation of the Lacey Act. In addition, he exported turtles into Canada without the necessary declarations and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) permits.
The investigation was conducted by the Service Office of Law Enforcement in conjunction with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Section, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Environment Canada. The investigation took place from 2009 to 2013, and the U.S. fines were paid in November 2013.
Wood turtles occur in West Virginia and the northeastern United States and there is concern about them among wildlife biologists due to population declines. Wood turtles are listed as Appendix II to CITES and are considered Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Investigators determined that Matton had traveled to West Virginia and other states where he unlawfully captured turtles from the wild, including box turtles and a gopher tortoise, for his personal collection. Matton also unlawfully purchased wood turtles from a covert agent and transported them back to Ontario. During the investigation, Matton told a covert agent he had captured 15 box turtles in two hours in the state of Indiana. Environment Canada is considering additional charges regarding Matton’s alleged unlawful activities.
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has established reptile and amphibian regulations that make it unlawful to possess certain reptiles and amphibians and places restrictions on the transportation of the more common reptiles and amphibians and also the taking and possession of reptiles and amphibians by non-residents of West Virginia.